As I wrote last week, embattled Senate nominee Cal Cunningham has been getting brutalized by the North Carolina political media down the homestretch of his Senate campaign, something you rarely see happen to Democrats here in NC.
Here we are a week later, and things haven’t gotten any better on that front for the married father of two, who back in September looked like he might have a lock on the race against his Republican opponent, Sen. Thom Tillis. In fact, they’ve gotten worse, when you watch what reporters have to say about their continued attempts to contact him in order to ask some questions.
In the final full week before Election Day, Cunningham – who admitted earlier this month to an affair with the wife of a fellow Army veteran – has been hit with, among other things, the dreaded “empty chair” treatment from the media, courtesy of local news outlet WTVD.
Their reporter Jonah Kaplan sat down next to an empty chair and gestured to it, while talking about how they had reached out many times to the campaign but were denied.
“We continue to reach out to the Cunningham campaign and offer an open invitation for Cal Cunningham to sit down with us for a one on one interview, an invitation so far he continues to decline,” Kaplan noted:
10 days of your team ignoring media requests pic.twitter.com/7rZQ0NBBwA
— Matt Whitlock (@mattdizwhitlock) October 25, 2020
That empty chair segment was another moment from this race that was reminiscent of the competitive, 2014 race between Tillis and then-Sen. Kay Hagan (D), where Hagan was noticeably absent from a Spectrum News debate:
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) October 22, 2014
Other media outlets around the state continue to report on how they’ve reached out to the campaign to request a formal appearance/interview, but were either told no or ignored:
.@ThomTillis and Cal Cunningham were both offered a chance to go on @NCCapTonight to make a closing pitch to voters this week. Cunningham declined because he doesn't want to answer questions about being under investigation by the U.S. Army. #ncsen #ncpol pic.twitter.com/lCxhsWd1ZE
— Andrew Romeo (@andrewromeo33) October 30, 2020
In fact, the only way the media can get a hold of Cunningham and his campaign these days is when they’re alerted by viewers to his location since he’s not sending out public event schedules to the press anymore. And when you watch how things go when he is asked questions (he neither confirms nor denies reports of a second affair here), it’s almost understandable why he’s trying to run out the clock:
WOW — Cal Cunningham’s “how to make sure your scandal is as painful as possible” tour continues.
He’s refused interview requests and won’t let media cover him, so a viewer told a local tv station about a small event.
— Matt Whitlock (@mattdizwhitlock) October 29, 2020
Even fake conservative Joe Scarborough, a big defender of Cunningham over the last several weeks, is commenting on how the campaign has imploded:
Joe Scarborough has been one of Cunningham's biggest cheerleaders this entire race. With less than a week to go he is now tearing into Cunningham because he "can't stop blowing himself up politically." Ouch. #ncsen #ncpol pic.twitter.com/WxF0cJvWd5
— Andrew Romeo (@andrewromeo33) October 29, 2020
The below clip perhaps best sums up the state of Cal Cunningham’s campaign at this stage in the game. In it, the interviewer notes how Cunningham “said he would be here, [but] did not show up”:
"Cal Cunningham is another story. He promised he would be here and then certain scandalous things befell him, which he admitted to and he sort of disappeared from doing media appearances. Even though he said he would be here, he did not show up." #ncsen #ncpol pic.twitter.com/Q6OYVzCwd3
— Andrew Romeo (@andrewromeo33) October 28, 2020
With polls showing a serious tightening in this race, and considering one North Carolina State University political analyst’s observation that “it’s hard to attribute [Cunningham’s erosion in support] to much other than” the affair scandal, Cunningham might find that the voters he needs to defeat Tillis on November 3rd simply won’t show up, either.